LONDON, May 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- A new 125mph Pendolino train will enter service with Virgin Trains this summer, giving customers another boost as record numbers of passengers flock to the West Coast Mainline, the Department for Transport (DfT) and Virgin Trains have agreed.
Virgin Trains and the DfT have joined forces to introduce the tilting train as soon as it has completed safety testing, expected in July.
The agreement means that the 439-seat train will run on Virgin Trains' busiest routes, and enable more capacity to be provided on other routes.
The new Pendolino will operate mainly on the Birmingham-Scotland and London-Glasgow routes, which have seen growth of more than 30% in the last two years. It will provide 183 more seats than are currently available on the SuperVoyagers that serve the Birmingham-Scotland route.
A five-carriage SuperVoyager will then be transferred to services between London and North Wales, meaning that some of the busiest trains on the route will now have ten carriages.
The number of journeys on Virgin Trains has more than doubled in six years - from 14m in 2004 to over 28m in 2010 - making it the fastest-growing franchise over that time. The massive growth has led to very busy services at some times, and the additional train will help relieve crowding issues.
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said:
"Tackling crowding and reducing the cost of our railways are two of the biggest challenges facing the rail industry at the moment. I am delighted that we have reached agreement to bring these carriages into service ahead of schedule.
"But this is just part of the Government's plans to increase capacity for the West Coast main line - when all the new Pendolino vehicles and trains are in service in December 2012, there will be 106 new carriages in operation on the line
"Across the rail network we plan to deliver more than 2,100 new carriages by 2019. These carriages are already beginning to arrive and, by the end of the month, 140 additional carriages are expected to be in service."
Tony Collins, CEO of Virgin Rail Group, said: "This is exactly what our customers want - more seats and space for their journeys. As soon as the Department for Transport asked for operators to suggest uses for the new train, we didn't hesitate to put forward our proposals. It shows great partnership with DfT officials and the minister that we can bring this train into service as soon as it has finished its testing."
The new nine-carriage train, which arrived in the UK in December, is part of an 11-carriage Pendolino recently manufactured by Alstom in Italy. Four 11-carriage Pendolino trains are being introduced over the next 18 months. An additional 62 new Standard carriages will also be added to 31 existing nine-carriage trains by the end of December 2012.
It is not possible to introduce the full 11-carriage set in the summer, for operational reasons. The new train - set number 390054 will be increased to an 11-carriage train as part of the new West Coast franchise, which begins on 1 April 2012.
Notes to Editors
Virgin Rail Projects Ltd was selected on 31 July 2008 to support the DfT throughout the design, manufacture, delivery, testing and commissioning of new 'Pendolino' trains. The extra trains and carriages are being built as part of a GBP1.5 billion deal between the DfT, Angel trains Ltd and train manufacturer Alstom.
The further three new 11 car Pendolino trains and the additional carriages are currently under construction. The second new train is expected to be ready to enter into service by 1 April 2012 with trains 3 and 4 following later in the year.
The contract allows for the vehicles to be maintained until 2022.
The extra carriages will deliver a significant increase in capacity for passengers on the route, providing 7,420 extra seats for passengers on the West Coast Main Line. The carriages are set to come into full service by December 2012 and will be used on the busiest routes at the busiest times of day, although the precise deployment will be up to the next operator of the West coast Franchise.
The agreement to deploy the first train is subject to contract being finalised, but the key elements have been agreed between the parties.
SOURCE Virgin Trains